Many people think entrepreneurship is all about innovation andbreakthrough ideas. Not so, “true entrepreneurial success comes from superior execution – doing a great job of “blockingand tackling.” I’ve given a lot of talks over the years on the subject ofentrepreneurship. The first thing I find I have to do is to dispel thepersistent myth that entrepreneurial success is all about innovative thinking and breakthrough ideas.
I’ve discovered that entrepreneurial success usually comes through great execution, simply by doing a superior job of doing the blocking and tackling. Butwhat else does it take to succeed as an entrepreneur and how should anentrepreneur define success?
Here’s what I came up with:
1. Be passionate.
You must be passionate about what you’re trying to achieve. That means you’re willing to sacrifice alarge part of your waking hours to the idea you’ve come up with. Yourpassion will ignite the same intensity in the others who join you as you build a team. And with passion, both your team and your customers aremore likely to truly believe in what you are trying to do.
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2. Maintain focus.
Great entrepreneurs focus intensely on an opportunity where others see nothing. This focus and intensityhelps to eliminate wasted effort and distractions. Most companies diefrom indigestion rather than starvation. Companies suffer from doingtoo many things at the same time rather than doing too few things verywell. Stay focused on the mission.
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3. Work hard.
Success only comes from hard work. There is no such thing as overnightsuccess; behind every “overnight success” lies years of hard work andsweat. People with luck will tell you there’s no easy way to achievesuccess-and that luck comes to those who work hard. Focus on things youcan control; stay focused on your efforts and let the results be whatthey will be.
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4. Enjoy the journey.
The road to success is going to be long, so remember to enjoy the journey. Everyone will teach you to focus on goals, but successful people focuson the journey and celebrate the milestones along the way. Is it worthspending a large part of your life trying to reach the destination ifyou didn’t enjoy the journey? Won’t your team also enjoy the journeymore as well? Wouldn’t it be better for all of you to have the time ofyour lives during the journey, even if the destination is never reached?
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5. Trust your gut instinct.
There are too many variables in the real world that you simply can’tput into a spreadsheet. Spreadsheets spit out results from your inexactassumptions and give you a false sense of security. In most cases, yourheart and gut is still your best guide. We’ve all had experiences inbusiness where our heart told us something was wrong while our brain was still trying to use logic to figure it all out. Sometimes a faint voice based on instinct is far more reliable than overpowering logic.
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6. Be flexible but persistent.
Every entrepreneur has to be agile, continually learning and adaptingas new information becomes available. At the same time, you have toremain devoted to the cause and mission of your enterprise. That’s where that faint voice becomes so important, especially when it is giving you early warning signals that things are off-track. Successfulentrepreneurs find the balance between listening to that voice andstaying persistent in driving for success-because sometimes success iswaiting right across from the transitional bump that’s disguised asfailure.
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7. Rely on your team.
It’s a simplefact: no individual can be good at everything. Everyone needs peoplearound them who have complementary skill sets. It takes a lot of soulsearching to find your own core skills and strengths. After that, findthe smartest people you can who complement your strengths. It’s tempting to gravitate toward people who are like you; the trick is tofind people who are not like you but who are good at what they do-andwhat you can’t do.
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8. Focus on execution.
Unless you are the smartest person on earth, it’s likely that many others have thought about doing the same thing you’re trying to do. Success doesn’t necessarily come from breakthrough innovation, but from flawlessexecution. A great strategy alone won’t win a game or a battle; the wincomes from basic blocking and tackling. No matter how much time youspend perfecting your business plan, you still have to adapt accordingto the ground realities. You’re going to learn a lot more usefulinformation from taking action rather than hypothesizing.
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9. Have integrity.
I can’t imagine anyone ever achieving long-term success without having honesty and integrity. These two qualities need to be at the core of everything we do.Everybody has a conscience-but too many people stop listening to it.There is always that faint voice that warns you when you are not beingcompletely honest or even slightly off track from the path of integrity. Be sure to listen to that voice.
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10. Give back.
Success is much more rewarding if you give back. By the time becomesuccessful, lots of people will have helped you along the way. You’lllearn, as I have, that you rarely get a chance to help the people whohelped you because in most cases, you don’t even know who they were. The only way to pay back the debts we owe is to help people we can help-and hope they will go on to help more people. It’s our responsibility to do “good” with the resources we have available.
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You might do all of the above and will wonder “but am I successful?”Success, of course, is very personal; there is no universal way ofmeasuring success. What do successful people like Bill Gates and MotherTeresa have in common? On the surface it’s hard to find anything theyshare-and yet both are successful.
I personally believe the real metricof success isn’t the size of your bank account. It’s the number ofpeople in whose lives you are able make a positive difference. This isthe measure of success we need to apply while we are on our journey tosuccess.